BWW Reviews: LIGHT UP THE SKY Shines Brightly at Theatre 40

It's opening night for the Boston tryout prior to Broadway of Peter Sloan's first play. Producer, director, and star actress all gush around him while they have a round of drinks to toast his accomplishment. The play delivers plenty of big laughs, while also maintaining a sharp bite when the actors reveal opening night was rocky and the play is sure to be a flop. As the star's mother Stella says, "Nothing can hurt this one except the curtain going up." The former truck driver turned playwright is soon attacked from all sides as each character slumps into the dumps of disappointment - until the reviews come out, heralding him as a glorious new voice in the American theatre, giving Sloan the opportunity for some delicious payback.

The 1948 backstage comedy LIGHT UP THE SKY by Tony and Pulitzer winner Moss Hart is so fresh, insightful and true that it could have been written today. There's nothing quite like the hours before the opening night of a theater production, and I am sure anyone ever involved in the production of a play will not be able to stop laughing as each character will no doubt remind you of some colorful characters you have known up close and personal. And I guarantee you will want to sing along when "Another Opening, Another Show' and "There's No Business Like Show Business" open each of the two acts.

Directed at a breakneck pace by David McClendon, the play seemed to fly by with each fabulous cast member bringing a fully realized character onstage, making it very easy to keep track of who does what for the play within the play. And what a cast of characters inhabit this backstage comedy: the grandly temperamental leading lady Irene Livingston (played with great abandon by Stephanie Erb); her sarcastic, gin rummy playing mother Stella (mistress of the one-liner Flore Plumb); the flamboyant director Carleton Fitzgerald (the ever crying David Hunt Stafford); the lowbrow producer Sidney Black (animated and athletic Arthur Hanket, the show's star performer); his ice-skating, super shopper, wisecracking wife Frances (Meredith Thomas, a vixen wrapped in diamonds and fur); playwright and confidant Owen Turner (keen observer Martin Thompson who claims old writers never die - they just go out of town); and the new playwright Peter Sloan (restrained until pushed too far Nick Denning). Rounding out the cast are Irene's Harvard-educated stockbroker husband Tyler Reyburn (handsome Bryan Bertone); ghost writer Miss Lowell (Cathy Diane Tomlin); wealthy Shriner William Gallegher (John Combs); and William Murphy who portrays Sven the masseur and a drunk Shriner.

Kudos to the lovely set designed by Jeff G. Rack and fabulous costumes by Michèle Young which paint a glorious picture of high society in actress Irene Livingston's suite in the Boston Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 1948. Totally color-coordinated with muted shades of tan gloriously offset with burgundy, purple, peach, sparkly black, and a lovely blue which picked up the exact color of the Tiffany lamp on a desk, the set and costumes are so good they could steal the show were it not for the gifted actors who use the set and wear the costumes so effortlessly that they compliment each other without distracting from the story. Sound designer Bill Froggati is to be congratulated for the realistic chirping of talking parrot Orson in his cage stage right.

Are you ready for some hearty laughter? Then head over to Theatre 40 where it's show time and enjoy the witty repartee in Moss Hart's LIGHT UP THE SKY!

The comedy classic LIGHT UP THE SKY written by Moss Hart, directed by David McClendon, produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40, a professional company located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School in the Reuben Corova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. There is ample free parking in the lot adjacent to the theatre.

Runs November 21- December 22, 2013 on Thurs.- Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00. Dark on Thanksgiving Thursday, November 28. ADMISSION: Thurs. & Fri. $24. Sat. & Sun. $26. RESERVATIONS: (310) 364-0535. ONLINE TICKETING: www.theatre40.org

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From This Author Shari Barrett

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